A couple weeks ago Matt’s company asked if he would travel to Mexico City for a week to do some trainings in their office there. They asked him on a Monday morning and he left that Wednesday. I was extremely jealous of Matt getting to visit a place neither of us had ever been and it seemed like a great opportunity to take Theo on his first international trip (if you don’t count our short escapade to Baja last November for Sunny’s inaugural trip). So, we bought tickets and flew down to meet Matt at the end of his work trip to spend a few days touring the city. We flew out of Tijuana on Volaris on a direct flight to Mexico City, so it was only three hours of actual flying. And we used the amazing new Cross Border Xpress to get to the Tijuana airport, which is so convenient and great that I wrote a separate post about it here.
We rented an apartment in the La Roma neighborhood. Matt met us at the airport and we took a taxi all together to the apartment (Matt had been staying at a hotel near his office before we arrived). Our host was waiting for us and had set up the portable crib and stocked the fridge with fruit, yogurt, juice and eggs. We arrived around 6pm – and since Mexico City is two hours ahead of San Diego – by the time we arrived at the apartment and settled in it was perfect timing to put Theo to bed.
[P.S. Renting an apartment/house is definitely the way to travel with a kid and will probably be the only way we travel for at least the next few years. We rented a two bedroom place and it was amazing to have Theo in his own room. He slept wonderfully every night just as if we were at home. On our past trips when we’ve stayed in hotel rooms we’ve ended up having to put him in the closet or bathroom so he’ll sleep without being distracted by us.]
Our first night there Matt woke up with an awful case of food poisoning. That day his coworkers had taken him out for carnitas, which were nothing like the carnitas we get at Mexican restaurants at home. His stomach didn’t tolerate the various pig brains and other parts he had consumed and it was a miserable night for him (and sleepless one for me).
Our first day there was mostly spent recovering from Matt’s food poisoning. I was also starting to come down with a cold and was feeling the altitude – Mexico City sits at about 7500 feet. We spent the morning resting, and then after Theo’s midday nap headed out for some short jaunts around the neighborhood.
We made it a few blocks away to Parque Mexico, which is in the heart of the La Condesa neighborhood. It was crowded with people walking their dog and couples sitting on benches. There is a massive, gated dog park at the southern end of the park. Pathways wind through the park and a large lake with ducks (a highlight for Theo) sits in the center. Even though Mexico City has a very mild climate (very similar to San Diego) the park felt very lush. We found a playground and let Theo run around to exhaust some of his energy. On our way back we stopped at the Panaderia La Boheme for a panini sandwich (Matt was fully against any and all Mexican food at this point).
On our second day we took another slow morning and then took a cab up to Matt’s office so I could meet his Mexican co-workers who he had been telling me about all week and so they could meet Theo. His office is in a suburban area about 30 minutes north of DF and shares a parking lot with Walmart. Costco is just next door and Home Depot is across the street. Except for the crazy traffic, it almost felt like we were at home. His co-workers were extremely friendly and very excited to meet Theo. They had nicknamed him “el guerito” (little white boy) and “el querubin” (the cherub) from the pictures Matt had shown them all. One had even bought Theo some toys as a gift.
After an hour or so of visiting we headed back to our apartment and put Theo down for his nap. He slept for over three
hours, so we didn’t get to head back out until almost 4pm. We headed for Bosque de Chapultepec, a large park at the edge of the La Condesa neighborhood that is home to the Castillo de Chapultepec, a zoo, a few museums and a large lake with boats. Everything was closing up as we arrived, so we didn’t get a chance to visit the castle or zoo as we had hoped. The street stalls along the main thoroughfare through the park were in full swing though and we had fun checking out all the interesting trinkets. They had tons of nacho libre masks, child leashes and baby carriers, capes, and all sorts of other random items.
We wandered through Parque Chapultepec and then ended up in the Polanco neighborhood, which is a very upscale neighborhood filled with Porsche dealerships, steakhouses and high end boutique stores. Lincoln Park in Polanco has an amazing playground and Theo spent over an hour on the slides and swings. It was fun being surrounded by local families who had come after work or school and we felt like locals doing something we’d typically be doing with our toddler at home.
On Saturday morning, we met a group of Matt’s co-workers and their families’ for breakfast at El Ocho Cafe Recreativo. The cafe had a great child-friendly atmosphere (including a whole wall of toys, games on the tables and touch screen t.v.’s with the menus) and a mix of Mexican and American breakfast options. Matt’s co-workers all have young kids too, including one girl who was just a couple months older than Theo. I had fun chatting in Spanish with their wives too. It was a super lively breakfast (it took 3 different waiters to accommodate our group and the constant requests for more food and drinks). Clowns came around to the tables too to blow up balloon animals for the kids. Theo was absolutely in love with his Pluto balloon animal and collected the other kid’s balloons for himself too.
After breakfast we walked through Parque Mexico with everyone. There were a lot of dog rescue groups posted up throughout the park with dogs available for adoption. The kids stopped to pet them all and some were begging their parents to bring them home. We finally made it to the playground in Parque Mexico and let the kids run free for a while. We had to steal away eventually as it was well past Theo’s nap time and we were all getting hot and thirsty.
After Theo’s nap another one of Matt’s co-workers picked us up, along with her boyfriend and another co-worker. We piled into a taxi (4 adults and Theo in the backseat – only in Mexico!) and drove an hour south to Xochimilco. This neighborhood of Mexico City is a World Heritage Site and has an extensive system of canals and chinampas (artificial islands).
We rented a trajinera (colorful gondola-like boat) named Yolanda for our small group. We sat at a long table in the middle of the boat while our guide navigated through the canals. A trajinera with a woman making quesadillas attached to our boat and served us food and drink to enjoy on our ride. There were quite a few other boats filled with tourists as well (mostly Mexicans celebrating various occasions). The shores were lined with rural homes and viveros (plant nurseries). Theo was anxious to dive overboard and swim the entire time, but we kept him occupied with the various food items and waving to tourists on other boats. As always, everyone was enthralled with the little blonde baby.
Back at the docks Matt was convinced to try a Michelada – a big gulp of Corona with gummy bears and chili powder.
The streets of Xochimilco and the main square in front of the cathedral were closed to traffic for a large festival occurring that weekend. Street vendors had set up all along the main street and we wandered through the crowds trying various treats.
Our final morning in the City we set off early for a final tour of the La Condesa and Roma Norte neighborhoods, which up until this point we had just gotten a small glimpse of. We stopped in the Mercado Roma for a breakfast of churros con chocolate and tamales. The Mercado has a small sampling of some of Mexico City’s best restaurants. Food is taken to go and there is a great back patio area with a living wall where everyone sits at large family tables to eat. It was an easy place to eat with Theo and he didn’t get in the way running around. After breakfast we headed back towards Parque Mexico and walked along the pedestrian pathway in the middle of Calle Amsterdam, which circumvents the park.
We were quite surprised at the modernity of Mexico City. The architecture is historic and full of character, but modern shops and cafes are everywhere. The mix of old and new is fascinating. Food stalls were everywhere, as were bike rental stations, dog walkers and taxis. We felt like we just scratched the surface of all the city had to offer and left wishing we had more time. Had we not been slowed down by our sicknesses we could have done quite a bit more. However, traveling with a toddler is also quite a different experience than what we are used to. Our days are divided by his naps and we are more focused on finding outdoor spaces for him to run around and play rather than enjoying meals at restaurants or seeing the sights.